“We drove to mevo’ot Jericho where we visited a yishuv with Hashomer Hachadash to volunteer at their mango farm. First, we heard from Avrahami, the owner and caretaker of the farm, about his inspiration and the difficulties and intricacies of growing mangos in the desert climate. Next, we all helped him out by picking weeds growing around his trees. Although we aren’t professionals, all that we did helped him tremendously and he was very appreciative”
Reading Jon’s description knowing the feedback Rob received left us feeling proud of Neshama and excited to see how they grow and impact the world. I asked Jon’s permission to also share his reflection on Neshama:
“My Neshama Experience
I can’t believe it has been 3 months since we left NJ. It feels like just yesterday we were finishing our high school classes and taking finals. At the same time these few months have also been meaningful and packed. From gaining a detailed understanding of the complex Issues Israel deals with, to developing a stronger connection with my heritage. I’ve also developed a stronger connection with my Jewish community and been able to have time and learn more about my independent self.
10 takeaways from Neshama
1. Rob loves to sing lullabies and go to cemeteries (“because of the history”)
2. You can learn new things anywhere you go if you are willing to put in the time and effort, even the most normal looking brick on the ground has tons of history.
3. Israelis have lots of pride in their country, and love to show it. Regardless of their political opinion, everyone can celebrate Israel’s independence together. It was crazy to see everyone going all out, especially the little religious boys who loved spraying shaving cream.
4. What they tell you about the Negev desert is a complete lie, it is not hot and dry, it is moist and cold
5. Every museum in Israel must have a screen that rolls up to reveal another room
6. My ancestors and parents did and do a lot to get me where I am today. Walking in their footsteps through Poland understanding their journey made me grateful for even being alive today.
7. The best way to learn about a place is by immersing yourself in the culture and pushing out of comfort zone. Apparently, there are other things to eat besides dinosaur chicken nuggets and pasta. You don’t have to like it but try it.
8. Israel has a lot of hikes - wherever you are, there’s a hike nearby.
9. Always be open to anything, aka Lizroam (aka Rob’s favorite word) . I’ve never been very good at going with the flow, I like schedules and knowing what to expect. But sometimes, it’s better to just go and not worry about anything. Sometimes the unexpected experiences are best
10. What I’ve learned about Neshama in the last few months is that it isn’t just a second semester of high school. It’s an opportunity to mature and discover your own identity. It’s the ability to leave whoever you used to be in NJ and be who you want, do what you want, and want what you want without influence. As scary as it sounds, Neshama is the beginning. The beginning of your life and you as an independent adult. These past few months have been an amazing start to our lives, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”